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Importance of RFID-blocking gear?

I've read conflicting pieces regarding the vulnerability of credit cards and passports to scanning/information hacking. Is it necessary to buy a sleeve to cover credit card/debit card and/or passport? I understand the importance of having bags with slash-proof handles. How about the RFID protective lining? Thanks!

Posted by
158 posts

My understanding is it only matters if you have cards that can 'tap to pay' - no inserting or swiping required. None of my cards do that so I am not worried about RFID blocking.

Posted by
3289 posts

US Issued Passports have the RFID blocking built in to the cover. So as long as you don't leave your passport open in your bag, it should be safe.

If you actually have credit cards that do the pay wave (they will have what looks like a WiFi emblem on them), which are the only cards that need any RFID shield, just put two or more of them together or place them together with a transit card like the London Oyster which is a pay wave card and they may interfere enough with each other to prevent someone with a reader from catching any useful info. I know this prevented my Oyster card from being read on first attempt in many instances much to the annoyance of the people in the queue behind me. Chip cards are not necessarily pay wave cards, it is a different type of chip for each function and most US issued cards do not have pay wave. The chip card that requires you to insert the chip into the reader must have physical contact with the reader to transfer info.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
24 posts

It is a very good idea to get the RFID protective lining. I had a client who was called by his bank while in my office questioning that someone while he was in Costco was using his information to purchase items somewhere else. The bank knew that it must have been done by the scanning devices thieves now have. They don't need your card or your PIN number - they actually just walk by you with this machine and it takes down all the information they need from reading the chip that is located on most of our Canadian credit cards right through your purse/wallet. Also because our new passports in Canada that have the chip on them we also have RFID passport covers when travelling.

You can buy the little sleeves for your credit cards but my husband and myself have actually purchased (rather economically) the RFID blocking wallets. We have experienced fraud and individuals getting access to our accounts on two separation occasions (as well as other family members) and why take the chance. For a little piece of mind it is worth it.

Posted by
30961 posts

This question seems to surface on a fairly regular basis.

Banks have different names for the RFID "tap" technology, such as "PayPass" or "PayWave". As the others have mentioned, only cards which have the small radio frequency symbol are susceptible to this type of theft.

You may find this article interesting (although it's several years old).....

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/june/money/credit-card-fraud/rfid-credit-cards/index.htm

You can buy small metallized sleeves for credit cards for only a few dollars at travel stores or whatever, or you make your own with aluminum foil as described in the article.

If you have Chip & PIN cards, these are not susceptible to remote retrieval of information as they have to be physically inserted into a POS terminal. If you're using ApplePay or similar technology, these also use the same RFID system but the information is encrypted so can't be hacked.

I wouldn't be too concerned about Passports as the covers have built-in shielding and the information that can be obtained is limited.

Posted by
23560 posts

I don't often hear (actually never) of purse straps cut either.

Posted by
5817 posts

There is absolutely no need to buy a RFID wallet. Yes it is technically possible for crooks to remotely skim a card but (so far) they simply aren't doing it, or if they are it is very rare. It's simply not worth their while. They could only skim small amounts if they bothered and any data they could receive would be pretty useless. Also why would they bother steal the details of individual cards when they can get millions from a relatively easy cyber hack ? There are much easier ways to rob you.

Regarding the bank that called to say it knew a customer's card had been RFID skimmed by a criminal, they were basically doing nothing more than guess (probably wrongly ) that it was the cause. There is simply no way for the bank to know it was this and not one of the many much easier ways to steal this type of data.

Oyster cards do not disrupt the signal to stop RFID cards from being read. The reason not to store contact less payment cards and oyster cards together is if you try and use them on public transport and they are in the same wallet the card readers do not know which card to take the money off. There is therefore the risk that they will take money off different cards for each journey meaning you over pay because the daily cap on the card isn't reached.

Personally I think there is more risk from having to constantly remove payment cards from an RFID wallet so they can be read than just keeping them in a normal wallet and risking the almost negligible threat from skimming.

Posted by
23560 posts

Once again, it is the solution looking for a non existent problem so the manufacturer can make some money.

Posted by
14 posts

Are you only worried about "foreigners" doing this? If so, then I would not invest in one. If you were worried in general (i.e. if "foreign" thieves are doing this, then "local" ones are too), then go ahead and get one, if only for your own piece of mind.

Posted by
1509 posts

Why do you need slash-proof handles? Oh wait, PacSafe needs $$$.

I have gone to Europe at least once a year for a long time. Somehow I have survived without slashproofing or RFID protection.

As for the RFID, the time the chip is actually readable... when you have it out of your bag to give to the merchant. So the protective lining only works if you NEVER use the card. Then it's great!

Posted by
5019 posts

Every bit as useful as RFID-blocking headgear (aka the tinfoil hat).
Only slightly more useful than Pacsafe stuff.

Posted by
4689 posts

debbiemac, your profile doesn't say if you live in the US. But if you do, you might do better to worry about the vast number of restaurants that take your card away, out of your sight, to charge you. That is one of the most common security holes here ... maybe, after retail vendors with poor POS terminal and network security (I mean like the breaches at Target and Home Depot ... )

You are worrying about theoretical problems and not real, demonstrated ones. I don't buy your report about a client. The bank can't "know" there was skimming.

Posted by
11430 posts

I ha e been travelling to europe since i was seven , i am in my mid 50s now.

I have never had a slash proof bag or a scanner protecter and i wouldnt think of getting either.

Posted by
5500 posts

I don't often hear (actually never) of purse straps cut either.

If anything, having a "break away" purse strap could save the purse carrier from serious injury in the event of a purse snatching attempt. And slash-proof handles don't work if you hang your purse from your chair or set your bag on the ground. The old camera bag trick (when tourist carried camera bags) was to step through the strap when you set the camera bag on the ground. The flaw in the camera bag trick is getting your leg pulled out from under you when your camera bag gets snatched.

What is better than a slash-proof strap is constant situational awareness and hanging on to your goodies. One doesn't need to be paranoid, just aware of your surroundings.

Posted by
516 posts

I encourage situational awareness as well. We should all be practicing it on a regular basis, whether at home or abroad. People get run over by cars, walk into lamp posts, knock over other people, etc., simply because they have their heads down at their phone or head in the clouds. We should be doing it so regularly that it becomes second nature and not a burden. In other words, if you're typically going about completely clueless of your surroundings...and getting away with it because of how safe you feel at home, then suddenly when you're needing to practice it while traveling, you just come off feeling paranoid. Kind of like going to the gym once in a blue moon and feeling completely worn out afterwards, as opposed to going every week. I'd invest my time and energy on this rather than on products that provide more perceived safety than real safety.

Posted by
4499 posts

Since there was one post recommending it, I will add yet another saying it is a waste of money. If your card does have RFID capabilities (and you have the system set up to use it), then the card must be just centimeters from the scanner to be read. Otherwise, you would be paying for other people's coffee or groceries all the time. So for someone to run around with a scanner to try and steal your card info, they would have to practically stick it against your wallet. Which means they need to know where your wallet is and get close enough to you to scan it. All technically possible, but highly remote. Thieves have much easier and more productive ways of stealing your cards and card numbers.

Posted by
495 posts

All of my cards are now contactless (tap to pay) so the RFID block is important whether overseas or stateside.

Well... RFID protection is equally important at home or abroad. If it is actually important is still up for debate.

Posted by
8617 posts

If you will sleep better knowing that your cards are protected by RFID then get it.
If you will sleep better knowing your bag is slashproof and anti-theft, then get one.
It doesn't really matter what any of us thinks. What matters is what will make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful.

Posted by
20626 posts

RFID protection and cut proof straps are mostly a marketing induced fear to sell the products. I would never worry about either situation. The pickpockets are more interested in getting your credit card the old fashion way. Take it when not looking. There has never been a report here or on a couple of sites that I watch about a bag strap being cut. Save your money for extra gelato.

Posted by
2428 posts

Because, in life, sometimes the people who protest the most, are the least knowledgeable, I weigh everything and follow my gut. I suggest you do the same. So this is where it has gotten me as it relates to: 1. pac safe 2. rfid

  1. I have a pac safe that I use more at home than abroad...each trip I have a different bag. I do like my pac safe because the zippers lock so that I can be distracted all I want and no pickpockets are getting in that bag! All its other attributes I don't necessarily need and/or require, but might receive the benefit of so won't complain...EXCEPT this is the most organized and sensible bag I own. I can fit tons of stuff in it, each in a place where I can find it. Mine is old so it has no rfid coverage. That being said, I haven't taken it on any recent trips, but rather use it a lot at home, but I work on securing zippers when I can with any other bag, but my last trip I took the least secure bag I have Kelly Moore Posey Pocket, and all was fine. Lesson: there are many reasons to pick a bag so ignore naysayers if you want a particular bag and go with it. I believe there is no perfect bag, just wonderful bag opportunities...

2.rfid: Who to believe? As I'm rather a 'plan for the worst scenario type' (and then go and have the best time ever), I picture being in a hostage situation where crazies are looking for Americans...an RFID pocket wouldn't hurt, LOL. Anyway, I have the rfid paper sleeves for my passport and cards, not really for the rfid, but for the convenience of not worrying about one unprotected card demagnetizing another, which can easily happen, and it keeps my passport clean. Also, I can write on these covers so I can easily identify which CC, debit, etc. each is.

So the bottom line, on this site, you don't know if you are speaking with an expert or someone else, so when a more technical questions like rfid comes up, I'd listen to everyone, but follow your gut. And don't let anyone belittle your decision, as their system is as likely to change in the future as yours is, IMO. ...Because it is so fun to pack, and we all change our priorities throughout life.

Posted by
5817 posts

This is an area where, due to the nature of my job, I do have some expertise.

As has been said it is possible to skim a card but due to the nature of the technology (at present), and common criminal behaviour (again at present) it is highly, highly unlikely to be something that any one needs to worry about.

There are huge profits to be made instilling unnecessary levels of fear in people and encouraging them to buy unnecessary and/or over engineered pieces of kit. RFID wallets are a very good example of this.

Posted by
23560 posts

Thanks for your professional expertise, Emma.

Posted by
4499 posts

To follow up on Wray's post about PacSafe bags - while the slash proof straps may be a bit overkill (I've known it to happen but many years ago), the real value in such bags are the anti-pick pocket security features. Especially for those who do not want to wear a traditional waist money belt.

Posted by
5500 posts

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/09/tin-foil-hats-actually-make-it-easier-for-the-government-to-track-your-thoughts/262998/

Tin Foil Hats Actually Make it Easier for the Government to Track Your Thoughts

Let's say some malevolent group -- the government, powerful
corporations, extraterrestrials -- really is trying to read and/or
control your thoughts with radio waves. Would the preferred headgear
of the paranoid, a foil helmet, really keep The Man and alien
overlords out of our brains?

The scientific reasoning behind the foil helmet is that it acts as a
Faraday cage, an enclosure made up of a conducting material that
shields its interior from external electrostatic charges and
electromagnetic radiation by distributing them around its exterior and
dissipating them. While sometimes these enclosures are actual cages,
they come in many forms, and most of us have probably dealt with one
type or another. Elevators, the scan rooms that MRI machines sit in,
"booster bags" that shoplifters sometimes use to circumvent electronic
security tags, cables like USB or TV coaxial cables, and even the
typical household microwave all provide shielding as Faraday cages.

While the underlying concept is good, the typical foil helmet fails in
design and execution. An effective Faraday cage fully encloses
whatever it's shielding, but a helmet that doesn't fully cover the
head doesn't fully protect it. If the helmet is designed or worn with
a loose fit, radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation can still get up
underneath the brim from below and reveal your innermost thoughts to
the reptilian humanoids or the Bilderberg Group.

And more...

So, instead of storing your passport and credit cards in the hotel safe, store it in the microwave oven. Just keep the door closed and don't push the start button.

Posted by
8617 posts

The key packets at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at LAX have RFID protection. On it they suggest that after your stay, guests use it to carry their credit cards.

Smart marketing by Crown Plaza. Anyone who uses is will flash the name Crowne Plaza every time they pull out their cards. Great advertising.

Posted by
3808 posts

Yeah - I love the setup of my PacSafe bag. Slash proof straps are really not high on my list of concerns, but the fact that I can carry my extra money (not daily money) behind some pockets which are behind a zipper (which can be secured) and behind a Velcro flap gives me peace of mind since there are three layers of protection (I know - not if someone makes off with the whole bag - but hubby is very careful about wearing it cross body and not setting it down anywhere - I get the camera bag so he gets the PacSafe).

Lots of room for maps, odds and ends and also my ipad mini, as well as being able to fit a water bottle and small travel umbrella in the side pockets. Ours is a metrosafe 200. We've had it since 2010 and only ever use it when on holiday.

Posted by
41 posts

If it makes you feel more secure, buy a blocking device, if it doesn't; don't :-)

Posted by
39 posts

I love my PacSafe bag because it has room for what I need to take in an organized way. It has the slash proof strap but I'm not sure my story is a good one or a bad one. In Rome, a team on a scooter tried to cut my bag off me. The strap didn't part, I put my arms and legs around a pole I was pulled towards, the scooter crashed and both men ended up with broken bones. I got a small bruise on my shoulder. They would have gotten my small cheap camera, a small amount of money (for gelato), my water bottle, maps and a few other things. The valuables were all under my clothes in deep storage. I use the RFID blocking sleeves provided by my bank since they recommend it with the readable cards they issue.

Posted by
5817 posts

That is why I would never buy a bag with "unbreakable" straps.
A good friend's mother had the same thing happen to her in Barcelona. She was wearing her bag cross-body and the strap didn't break when it was grabbed by the moped passenger. She was dragged along the pavement for quite a way. She was in a terrible state, covered in bruises and grazes and very lucky not to break a bone. I also worry about a bag catching in a bus or train door.
There are certain points where I am more than happy to "give up" my bag and unbreakable straps make that much harder.

Posted by
84 posts

Just make your own from aluminum foil and duct tape. Why be worried? Have a great trip!

Posted by
516 posts

There are certain points where I am more than happy to "give up" my bag and unbreakable straps make that much harder.

I've pondered this a lot during my travels with regards to defense vs. personal safety. Although I haven't experienced myself, I've heard many times of folks hear at home (I'm in the SF Bay Area) who are mugged and because they have no money on them, the mugger beats them up instead. So is it better just to "let them have it" or be so safe and secure that it backfires? For example, keeping "some" money easily accessible and given up, rather than having none so none can be stolen and wind up a worse victim instead, just like here with the uncutable, unbreakable pacsafe straps?

Posted by
5817 posts

You are even less likely to be beaten up by a mugger than you are to have your pocket picked, and statistically that's pretty unlikely.
Your average street mugger is just after your money and they want it quickly and easily. They do not want to be causing a scene and if caught facing a much more severe sentence because of violence.

It really isn't some thing to worry about. Despite the almost constant chat about it on this site becoming a victim of crime whilst in holiday is not the norm.

Regarding the unbreakable straps, the whole idea of them just worries me. Maybe I was scared at a young age by the story of Isadora Duncan's death but I want things to snap when caught!?:-)